What causes a hazard to become a disaster?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A natural hazard becomes a natural disaster when it happens in a place and time that causes it to harm human beings and their property. 

A natural hazard can be defined as natural phenomena that have the potential to do significant damage to people and their property.  These are things that could hurt people, but have not actually done so.  For example, Mt. Rainier in Washington State is a natural hazard because it could erupt and cause massive damage.  Because it has not done so, it has not been a natural disaster in historical times.

A hazard becomes a disaster when it actually occurs and when it occurs in such a way that people are harmed.  For example, a hurricane is a natural hazard while it is at sea.  When the hurricane reaches land and destroys buildings and kills people, it is a disaster.

Thus a hazard becomes a disaster when it comes into contact with the human world, killing people and causing damage to property.


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